What Makes a Game Addictive?

What makes a game addictive? I’m sure I don’t represent the typical gamer, and thus am not a good market study. But I am starting to learn what I like, and what I’ve don’t, and what lies between.

I’ve been playing Limbo. The neo-noir feel is intriguing and I immediately like my little bright-eyed character who awakens from the dark. Navigation is easy, important for a controller immigrant like me. The puzzles are clever and re-load is fast so as I “try-and-die” I don’t become impatient.

But each time I fail the black droplets of blood squirting from my little guy sends steel spikes through my heart (my real heart that is). I can’t watch my guy die a gruesome death over and over (and over) again without shutting down my empathy and emotive capacity for this character. And when I shut down my connection – the game becomes boring. I like the puzzles but they are more fun when I feel close to my character and if I feel close to my character, I don’t want to feel its pain. I can feel myself withdrawing from Limbo and am likely not to go past chapter 11.

I am wondering why Limbo has so much going for it and I am letting the darkness get to me. I love the B&W, I love the sudden thump of the spider leg, it is all so well done – but it’s not where I want to go when I want to escape in a game world.

Again, I think I am unusual in that I also don’t like any fantasy, MMORPG type games I have tried. I am not a mythical, medieval, or sci-fi kinda gal. But somehow that kind of character connection didn’t bother me in Portal, maybe because it is first person POV. I focused entirely on the puzzles and how to solve them rather than the effect they had on me.

Lots to think about as we make try-and-die puzzle games….JAC


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